The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very inconsistent team, and nothing showed this more than the team rebounding from losses to the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders with a huge home win vs. the New England Patriots in Week 15. However, the inconsistencies continued with an absolutely heart-breaking defeat to the Saints in Week 16. Now, the Steelers don’t control their own destiny, but are relying on the help of the Browns — the Cleveland Browns.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite the immediate future looking dismal, the story of the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers has yet to be written, or completed, just yet.
It could end in a miracle, or in disappointing fashion. Only time will tell which way the season will end...
Let’s get to the news:
By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Steelers play their most meaningful season finale in years against Cincinnati on Sunday at Heinz Field, and it’s nowhere near the most meaningful game in the AFC North this weekend.
Soak that up for a second.
Since the stadium opened in 2001, the Steelers have dominated their division by winning nine titles, with two Super Bowl championships and a Super Bowl loss. Now, their chances of making the playoffs hinge on the hope that they beat the Bengals, the Browns beat the Ravens in Baltimore and/or the Colts and Titans play to a tie.
That was the sobering serum that the Steelers had to digest this week: A season that started with Super Bowl expectations could go bust, even if they win, and their offseason could start earlier than anyone imagined.
Left guard Ramon Foster started soaking that in as he sat on a stool in the visiting locker room at the Superdome, worrying not about what this weekend means for the Steelers but instead the weekend that follows.
“The worst thing that can happen for a team that’s good enough to be in the playoffs is that first weekend at home, if you are, and saying to yourself, ‘Damn. I don’t want to be here. We could have beaten that team that’s playing,’” Foster said. “That’s one of the worst feelings ever: That you should be in. You have to get it, all or nothing.”
The Steelers have shown they can play with the NFL’s best teams, as evidenced by single-digit outcomes against the Chiefs, Chargers, Patriots and Saints. But they have to account for tying the Browns, losing at home to the Ravens and at Denver and Oakland. Three of those teams – possibly four – won’t make the playoffs.
“You’ve got to accept the wrongdoing that you did and the reason we’re in this position,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. “Once you come to grips with that, then you can move forward. We know we’ve got to play a hell of a football game to beat this team because they would like nothing better than to end our season with a dagger in our hearts. Those guys are going to come to play and I think all of us know that.”
That should serve as all the motivation the Steelers needed this week. But the cocksure attitude that carried them to six consecutive victories and a 7-2-1 record has suddenly vanished, as they received a reality check by losing four of their past five games.
The locker room at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex was subdued this week, the laughter and loose vibes replaced by a businesslike approach. The Steelers know they blew this season and that their playoff fate now rests in the hands of division rivals, an uncomfortable and unfamiliar position for a team that once bragged that it ran the AFC North.
“The Steelers, in the last 15 years, probably haven’t missed the playoffs very often,” Steelers tight end Vance McDonald said. “It’s one of those things that when it happens, it’s almost stunning and shocking for some.
“It takes a specific perspective to come in and find the motivation and the drive to put in the work and improve. We talked about how fate was in our hands and now it’s not, and how a couple things have to roll our way. But, even still, it can be deflating.
“It’s very difficult but, at the same time, it will improve your game, not even football but just life in general when you can overcome things when you’re not sitting on the mountain, when you’re struggling. It’s a tough lesson but it’s a valuable lesson.”
The Steelers say they are singularly focused on beating the battered Bengals, who have lost seven of nine since their Oct. 14 meeting, but a history lesson is valuable. The Steelers beat the winless Browns in the finale last year, and the Bengals beat the Ravens to knock them out of the playoff picture.
The Steelers are trying to soak that up, too.
“We’re human beings,” McDonald said. “We’ll have a moment where there’s no doubt, we’re in and the Browns are going to handle their business. And then there’s other moments when it’s like, man, this is not a great feeling, maybe some different words coming from different people.
“It’s one of those things that draws you in and builds you up as a team whenever you can and do overcome some of those negative feelings and negative vibes, when someone is maybe in the gutter in their mind with motivation and you’re able to pull them out. At the same time, too, when you see the moments that guys are really energetic considering the circumstances it’s really uplifting and a lot of fun.”
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The sibling rivalry between the first set of brothers selected in the first round of the same NFL Draft will continue throughout the winter when Terrell and Tremaine Edmunds return home to Danville, Va., and swap stories about their rookie seasons.
Tremaine can talk about leading the Buffalo Bills in tackles. Terrell can counter with playing more snaps this season than all but six players in the NFL.
Ask Terrell for a comparsion, and he’s not quite ready to give one.
“Don’t make me pick between me and my brother,” Terrell said with a laugh this week when he was named the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie of the year. “It’s brotherly love. We’re going to go back and forth about it when we get back home — whenever that is. Hopefully, it’s no time soon.”
Tremaine already is assured of his season ending Sunday courtesy of Buffalo’s 5-10 record. Terrell’s return date to Danville remains uncertain. With the Steelers (8-6-1) clinging to hopes of winning the AFC North, the young strong safety’s season could end Sunday or it could extend into January.
“We’re just getting all of the pieces together,” Terrell said. “We had a lot of close games this year, but we’ve been coming up short. The season could have been totally opposite right now. It could be joyful and cheerful now, but we didn’t win the games we were supposed to win.”
Edmunds contributed to a defense that played its best game of the season two weeks ago in a 17-10 victory against the New England Patriots but followed by allowing 31 points in a three-point loss to the New Orleans Saints.
In those two games, Edmunds received his two highest coverage grades, according to Pro Football Focus, which determined he allowed 14 yards on passes where he was the “primary coverage defender”against the Saints.
“He’s gotten better and better each ballgame,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “He’s getting a feel for what we’re trying to do and his responsibilities — not only his responsibilities but the people around him, and he’s starting to see that pretty good, too.”
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The last time these teams met, the Cincinnati Bengals had a 4-1 record and were perched atop the AFC North, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were muddling along with a 2-2-1 record.
Neither team might be heading to the postseason, but the Bengals have made the deeper plunge, going 2-8 since that Oct. 14 meeting.
With the Bengals in last place, coach Marvin Lewis might be overseeing the final game of his 16-year tenure Sunday against the Steelers.
“I don’t worry about my future,” Lewis said on a conference call this week. “I’m a football coach.”
Despite the strong start, the Bengals will finish with a losing record for the third year in a row. Lewis is 113-121-3 heading into the game Sunday.
“We know the fine line that exists in the NFL,” said Lewis, a McDonald native and Fort Cherry graduate. “You are on one side of it or the other. You hope to be on a correct side of those games. When you’re not, your season goes awry in a hurry.”
Injuries to Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Vontaze Burfict and Dre Kirkpatrick, among others, have robbed Bengals of some of their best players heading into the finale. Lewis said the game still has meaning for the team’s younger players.
“It’s a game to finish the season that matters for us,” he said. “We didn’t have the season we wanted to have, but we’re going on the road to play a division team. We have so many young players, and these division games matter so much to you in your NFL career, and you have to figure out ways to beat teams in your division.”